Friday, March 27, 2009


It's never a good sign when the accents (Australian) are easier to believe than the play itself. And Patricia Cornelius's Love desperately needs something good, something to balance its ultra-dark triangle of users and abusers, and the even darker content they end up mired in. As the tough Tanya (Bronwen Coleman) puts it to her lover Annie (Erin Maya Darke): "Poor poor fucking things don't love. We're takers, users, bastards, arse holes." She's talking about the way the world views them, but it's not exactly moving, for the audience sees them in the same light: Tanya is, after all, Annie's pimp, and when she's high, she's even more closed off.

Cornelius's script spits out a little dirty romance every now and again, but it never shows us the characters: it just tells us about them. The play starts that way, with Tanya describing how she fell in love with Annie, and continues that way, with short, clipped dialogue illustrating power relationships, but not emotional ones. It's a wall that director Mark Armstrong can't pierce, so instead he lets Dan Henry was the stage in darkness, trying to let the words work for themselves: "We will slip back in that easily, because we fit," says Tanya, on her way to rehab. "When we lie you slip in the curve of me, we come from somewhere the same, the same shit, we were born in it." That's a pretty and ugly line, but without context, it's just a line.

The introduction of Lorenzo (Ken Matthews) hints that there will at last be some action, but it's quickly dispelled by the way he shows up out of the blue (literally) and immediately becomes the object of Annie's affection. It's obvious from Annie's dreams (of being a free-roaming horse) and reality (she's been having sex since she was 9) that she's a bit daft, but this makes it hard to empathize with how excited she is by the opportunity to marry Lorenzo and how broken-up she is to lose him. If it's meant to work metaphorically--that is, she's so broken that she clings to any kindness, even the cruel kind--it fails again, for Tanya never leaves her side. This reveals Lorenzo for the energetic device that he is, though it doesn't stop the playwright from lavishing time on his antics.

Things would be further complicated by the jumps in time but not place (April Bartlett's depressing bed haunts the center of every scene), save for the fact that every scene feels much like the ones preceding it. In fact, the play gets so mired in its own misery that even the moments of happiness--Annie, announcing that for her wedding, she's "going to wear white and fuck anyone who thinks I shouldn't"--can't break up the monotony. It's effective at conveying only what the audience believes about these loving yet loveless characters from the start, and who needs to watch an eighty minute reminder?

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